Building a better Ireland

CSR | Fri 7 Nov | Author – Business & Finance The One Percent Difference campaign
Pictured: Rugby player Ronan O’Gara and celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna helped launch The One Percent Difference campaign in 2013

Maurice Healy, chairperson of Philanthropy Ireland, explains the importance of an effective CSR strategy for all businesses and how The One Percent Difference campaign encourages companies to help worthwhile causes regardless of size and scale.

Giving is good for business. It gives the management and staff a sense of pride in the company they work for, improves employee morale, increases employee retention and builds the trust and loyalty of your customers.

The last few years have been tough ones for business. We have endured one of the deepest and longest recessions in the history of the state. However, there are strong signs that the Irish economy is finally moving in the right direction. Business and consumer confidence is growing and we can all begin to think about the future of business and our country.

It is, therefore, an opportune time to start thinking about the kind of country we want to live in and the role of business in creating a better, fairer Ireland. I firmly believe that we all, managers and staff alike, want an Ireland that is not just a great place in which to do business but also a great place to live and work. Building that better Ireland needs business involvement, investment and leadership.

Not-for-profit

There is no social programme that can rival the business sector when it comes to creating jobs, wealth and innovation which improve living standards. However, a successful society banks on the joint efforts of business, government and civil society working together. We need to get to a position where we concentrate on creating shared value. Business leaders are citizens with as much a stake in the future of Ireland as anyone else. They are just as eager to work to make Ireland a better place.

The not-for-profit sector in Ireland makes a massive contribution to Irish life. Organisations as diverse as St Vincent de Paul, the GAA, Irish Chamber Orchestra and hundreds of others, all contribute to making Ireland a better country in which to live. There is also a new generation of young social entrepreneurs who have ground breaking ideas on how to solve Ireland’s social and environmental problems. With active support and investment by the business sector they could make it an even better country. The not-for-profit sector needs investment, capital, support in terms of products, time and business knowhow if it to grow and deliver improved services to the Irish people.

We all want an Ireland that is not just a great place in which to do business but also a great place to live and work.”

The One Percent Difference Campaign is designed to tap into the desire of Irish citizens and Irish business to make a difference. We at Philanthropy Ireland are asking every Irish business and person to consider giving just 1% of their time or money to a cause they care about. After such a long and deep recession not every business can afford to donate 1% of its profits but many may be in a position to give their employees time to assist a cause.

Lead from the front

There are lots of companies, big and small, who are already making a huge contribution to good causes. They span all sectors: professional services,, such as Matheson and KPMG; indigenous organisations  like Country Crest and Done Deal; large internationals such as Vodafone and Salesforce; and retailing such as Applegreen and Supervalu. These are just a few of the many examples of corporate giving, all making a huge variety of contributions in very varied ways.

Good causes need involvement, investment and business leadership. Many depend on volunteers to staff programmes or to actively fundraise for them. Employers − can you facilitate your employees to volunteer for a good cause by giving them time to do so or can you organise a group of employees to complete a project in a defined time? Nothing builds employee engagement like picking a cause for three years and really putting all of your volunteering effort behind it. Poll your employees to see what they care about. Pick a cause that can utilise your company’s specialised skills. As with any other project, take ownership and lead from the top. If the CEO is seen to volunteer then everyone else will as well.

Investment, be it cash, suitable product/service or time, is always welcome. It may be the case that it is not feasible to give 1% of profits or income. If you are prepared to enter into a long-term relationship with a good cause and direct both your own and your employees fundraising efforts to support that cause you can have a major impact. Sustained giving is the key to impact. It reduces the fundraising cost to the cause thus enabling them concentrate on forward planning.  It also allows you and your company to really get to know the cause you are dealing with.

Board level

Business leadership and business know-how are also now needed more than ever. The number of Irish CEOs who hold board positions in Irish non-profits is far lower than it should be and far lower than other countries like US and UK.

The One Percent Difference Campaign is designed to tap into the desire of Irish citizens and Irish business to make a difference.”

Good causes need help with strategy, governance and marketing; they need strong competent business leaders to help them grow and offer better services. This is not the cheap option. It’s not just a case of turning up to the odd board meeting but it is an opportunity for senior executive to get their sleeves rolled up and make a real contribution.

What are the benefits? My company, The Healy Group, invests 20% of its profits in good causes. We have seen employee engagement with the firm soar since we took that decision. Our employees are proud of that contribution and that supports our bottom line. People who work with us stay with us. Our customers recognise our contribution and value it. I am active on a number of board including Traidlinks, Irish Chamber Orchestra and Philanthropy Ireland. I have learnt a great deal by serving on these boards. In the process I have sourced new products, new customers and enjoyed every minute.

Your company and your team can make a real difference. Join The One Percent Difference and help to create a better, fairer Ireland.

CG 50 2014This article was originally published in the Business & Finance Corporate Giving 50 2014. A special report on some of Ireland’s top CSR-minded companies.